Thursday, April 20, 2006

File under monkey/rodent terror

So my best friend has a horror of lab monkeys. Partly because they have interchangeable heads, but mostly because we're constantly implanting/training/otherwise imbuing them with the power to take over the world. This fear reached a peak sometime last year, when remote-control rat technology overlapped with monkeys' ability to control robot arms with their brains. She was pretty much sure that we were in for an army of robot rats telepathically controlled by primates.

Now, Pharyngula points out a new video game technology that allows you to install your favorite rodent as the Boss. The game tracks your pet's movements as it chases a piece of bait (undoubtedly a tiny, cheese-flavored human effigy), and reproduces Mr. Squeak in the game as a giant monster chasing your helpless avatar. Of course, the developers have all sorts of heartfelt justifications:
"We want to enable pets to play games in a way very similar to the way human players' play," said RASTER's Vladimir Todoroviæ, a collaborator working on the Metazoa Ludens project. "To play a computer game with your hamster would definitely make us think about where we have come with digital tradition now."

It may sound like a really complicated version of Ms. Pac-Man, but the goal of the game makers is ambitious: to merge human spaces with pet spaces through pervasive computing interfaces. By creating high-tech, pets-versus-owners computer games, researchers hope to gain new insights into animal behavior, and perhaps develop new technologies that could close the gap between the species.
Still, I think it's painfully obvious: We're preparing for the coming monkey-rat invasion.

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